We can calculate how many Defensive Runs Saved a team recorded for a pitcher on batted balls. Think of it as similar to a team’s defensive efficiency behind a pitcher, but with a run value instead of a percentage.
Here’s a list of the pitchers who received the most Defensive Runs Saved in that regard in 2022.
Most Defensive Runs Saved By Team For Pitcher – 2022
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* Changed teams this past offseason
Let’s take a closer look at the top four pitchers on this leaderboard, three of whom changed teams this offseason.
Zac Gallen had a fantastic 2022 for the Diamondbacks, pitching to a 2.54 ERA and leading the NL in both WHIP (0.91) and hits allowed per 9 innings (5.9).
The Diamondbacks’ infield turned 80% of groundballs and bunts into outs for Gallen (the MLB out rate is 74%) last season, which ranked in the top 10% of pitchers who allowed 120 grounders and bunts (14th out of 138). Fielding Bible Award winning first baseman Christian Walker was no doubt instrumental in that.
The Nos. 2, 3, and 4 pitchers all changed teams this past offseason. Jameson Taillon went from the Yankees, who led the majors in Defensive Runs Saved in 2022, to the Cubs after signing a four-year deal as a free agent.
The Cubs could be one of the better defensive teams in 2023 if things break right. They moved a standout fielder, Nico Hoerner, from shortstop to second base to accommodate the signing of Gold Glove Award winner Dansby Swanson. They also added Cody Bellinger in center field and Tucker Barnhart at catcher. All of these players have solid defensive reputations.
Something to keep an eye on with Taillon will be his groundball rate, which ranged from 46 to 52% with the Pirates from 2017 to 2020, but dropped to 33% and 40% in his two seasons with the Yankees.
Taillon’s rate of getting outs on grounders and bunts was just about identical to Gallen’s, 80%. The Cubs infield defense figures to be strong up the middle but may not be as good as the Yankees at the corners (with Eric Hosmer and Christopher Morel instead of Anthony Rizzo and Josh Donaldson/DJ LeMahieu).
José Quintana and Justin Verlander, both headed to the Mets, are contrasts in the defensive support they got last season.
Quintana’s was largely predicated on the skill of the Pirates and Cardinals teammates behind him. He led all pitchers in Runs Saved that came from player performance excluding positioning with 14.
For Verlander, 9 of the Astros 13 Runs Saved came from defensive positioning, indicative of defensive shifts being of notable benefit to him.
Also contrasting was their defensive support on balls hit in the air that stayed in the ballpark. Verlander got the third-highest out rate on those balls (77%). Quintana ranked in the bottom 10% (153rd out of 165 pitchers with 120 balls allowed in the air) with a 60% rate.
The Mets defense will be challenged to be as good as Verlander’s Astros or the Cardinals one that Quintana had behind him the last two months of the season. New York ranked 15th in Defensive Runs Saved last season and return a nearly identical defensive lineup to that of 2022.
Keep an eye on how this impacts Verlander’s and Quintana’s ERAs. It may be hard for them to maintain their 2022 performance levels.